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Government-run health care in Philadelphia: about as efficient as you'd expect

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Message Dana Pico

As y’all know, I have said that I support going to a single-payer health care plan. But I have never said that we’d get better health care out of it, and actually expect our health care system to get worse under such a system.

From Thursday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Long waits cited in city health care¹
    The controller reported an average of five months to see a doctor. One center may be skewing the figures.
    By Kia Gregory, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

    It takes patients at the city’s health centers an average of more than five months to get an appointment to see a doctor, according to a report released yesterday by the city controller.

    In comparison, it took 15 days to get an appointment in New York City and only seven days in Baltimore, according to the report.

    “Studies show that prevention is oftentimes the best medicine,” City Controller Alan Butkovitz said in releasing the report. “In the case of our health clinics, prevention is on the back burner.”

    Tom Storey, director of ambulatory services for the city’s Department of Public Health, attributes the long average wait time to delays at the Cottman Avenue center in the Northeast.

    “Health Center 10 is certainly our greatest challenge,” Storey said. “We believe it reflects the few choices that people have. There are not other community centers available. There are not a lot of hospitals in that area. In our opinion, it really does reflect a demand for service.”

    There are eight public health-care centers throughout the city, and, according to Health Department data, most of the 85,000 patients who visited them last year were African American and Hispanic adults mired in poverty.

    About half of their 320,000 visits were uninsured.

But, of course, that means that about half did have health insurance.

I can’t quote the whole article, due to copyright restrictions, but the next three paragraphs explain just how well Philadelphia’s public health department serves patients:

    Sitting outside the city health center at Broad and Morris Streets yesterday, Dawn Price, waiting for her ride, was fuming.

    For more than a week, she had been wincing from stomach pain, and she had gone to the center yesterday only to be told to come back Friday.

    The doctor wasn’t in.

The rest of the story contains the defenses of the city’s health department, with the director saying how good the system is, but it’s all bogus. Even the math is bogus: they want to blame the average delay of five months on one particular health care center, out of a total of eight. Unless that one particular center sees fully half of the patients, it’s average waiting time would have to be nine months for the other seven centers to average a wait of only one month. As you increase the percentage of patients seen by the other seven centers, the average wait of the one particularly bad one would have to increase significantly.

Translation: the Inquirer article doesn’t tell us the whole story — which isn’t a surprise.

What a surprise: in a government-run health care system, patients are treated to delay after delay in being seen and treated. Well, that’s what happens in Canada and the United Kingdom and the other socialized medicine countries, isn’t it? Why should we expect the City of Brotherly Love — where half of the public high school students drop out — to do any better?

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Editor of Common Sense Political Thought, mostly Republican (but not always), mostly conservative (but again, not always), always interesting.
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Government-run health care in Philadelphia: about as efficient as you'd expect

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